Thursday, 16 June 2016

UK Games Expo 2016 - Teaching with Games Seminar

So the seminar was billed as - "How are games used to teach and learn? Games Jams, boardgames sessions and design are increasingly used in universities around the UK to help the next generation of games developers explore gaming. Come and find out how games help us learn, what academics are getting up to in various universities around the country, and where you can learn games design! 

Dr Esther MacCallum-Stewart is joined by Douglas Brown, Brian McDonald, Patrick Morrison and James Wallis."

Well, did it live up to that?  Kinda sorta...

The seminar covered two key things -

  • Game design whether it be video, mobile or whatever has it's foundations in board game design.  If you can design a board game then you have the building blocks for any sort of game.
  • Game Jams are cool (more below) and give attendees the opportunity / challenge to create a game from scratch over roughly 48 hours.
What it didn't cover was the use of games as an tool for education as it was focused on the use of tabletop games as a design method as part of an educational programme.  No biggie, I still got stuff out of it just not what I wanted or went in to get.

The topic of using games as a tool for education is what "Teaching with Games" suggests it would be about.  Granted the description doesn't spin that way and does lean more to the game design aspect.  I would have liked to have heard something for the former but was happy with what I heard ultimately anyway.

Core element of the seminar that I took was the power of Game Jams.

So what is a Game Jam then?  Well it's like a lot of "creative bubble" events. You enter with nothing more than a desire to create something and leave with an idea developed and physically represented by a prototype.

In the 1st Chapter I ran 24 Hour Comic Book Day and 24 Hour RPG / Game Chef events at the shop.  These are essentially Game Jams by a different name.  Arrive with nothing, take some keywords and formulate an idea either on your own or in a team then turn it into something tangible.  Sites like 1000 Monkeys, 1000 Typewriters specialise in distributing that kind of content in games at least.

The Game Jams that the panel talked about tended to 48 hour events (long enough to crash and burn then recover to achieve something) which is different from those I've hosted and I can see the advantage of that.  Especially in the case of 24 Hour Comic Book Day which is 24 pages in 24 hours, a much harder task than you'd consider on the face of it.

So having taken away the Game Jam guidance they gave I think I see their inherent advantage over the one's I hosted in the 1st Chapter.  Not least of which is the 48 hours involved as the number of times someone "won" a 24 hour event was few and far between.  Giving them 48 hours enables that reset and try again opportunity plus of course it also means you're more likely to come out with a pretty decent prototype game and associated components!

For those interested in holding a Game Jam here are some links -

Global Game Jam

Scottish Game Jam
Moray Game Jam Website -
Glasgow Caledonian University Game Jam -

Plus Game Jam Central -

If you do host one or are interested in doing one, let me know!